Central Asian Museum, Leh

View of the the Central Asian Museum  main building. It was designed and built by André Alexander.View of the interior of ground floor of Central Asian Museum main building. Model for the Central Asian Museum in Leh designed by THFThe local artisan team discussing and participating in the designPreview Opening took place on 23-24 August 2011, with the first artefacts, a special photographic exhibition and art installations by European artists, as well as a workshop. The events were attended by the Minister for Culture and Tourism, Jammu & Kashmir, local community and administration heads, and hundreds of visitors

In 2007, THF and the Anjuman Moin ul-Islam Society cooperated on the restoration of Leh's oldest mosque, the Masjid Sharif in the Tsa Soma garden in the Chutayrangtak area of the old town. With the help of Intach J&K, the idea to build a museum on the site was developed - the first proper museum in Leh! The idea was to inform about the Central Asian trade, of which Ladakh long has been an important crossroads, and which has had a long and lasting influence on the development of Ladakh's unique culture.

On August 22, the foundation stone was laid for the Central Asian Museum in old Leh. The museum was the brainchild of the Anjuman Society in Leh (the site owner), with whom THF had cooperated in 2007 to restore Leh's oldest mosque, and Intach J&K's Saleem Beg. The project is financed largely by the Jammu & Kashmir Ministry of Tourism, but it will be necessary to raise some more funds to complete the project, which also includes a library, a garden restaurant and a museum shop. The eminent Ladakhi historian, Abdul Ghani Sheik, is putting together a collection of trade artifacts for the permanent exhibition.

The museum was designed and is being built by THF/LOTI. A student team from the Habitat Unit of Berlin University of Technology, part of a group that attended the course on sustainable building for the Himalayan context, visited Leh in April 2008 to participate in providing design ideas. Two participants of the ASA/Inwent exchange program came as well. The final concept and design for the site was made by André Alexander, based on traditional Ladakhi and Tibetan building types, with the help of A. Catanese, S. Klein (THF/LOTI), N. Weber, B. Preller (ASA), local artisans masons Lal Singh and Jamyang, carpenter Tsering Dorje, the Anjuman team and thanks ro Prof. Herrle, Prof. Berten, A. Schubert, N.-A. Grzywatz and D. Krüger (TU Berlin).

The ceiling of the ground floor, according to the concept of the museum, is built in early Ladakhi and Baltistani style. The capitals have been adapted from the Tsemo tower, and the center is a diamond ceiling, as found in many early Ladakhi temples.

Project supported by Jammu & Kashmir Ministry of Tourism, Maximilian Y. K. Ma, Francesca von Habsburg, China Exploration & Research Society (CERS), Finland Embassy New Delhi and Virginia & Wellington Yee.

Presentation of museum design in THF site office 2008
Puja for laying foundation stone of Central Asian Museum in Leh

Digging for the foundation September 2008
Artisan team building the solid stone walls October 2008

Central Asian Museum status October 2008
The THF CAM design team 2008

Tibetan-style walls for CAM
Fixing the shing-tsak over the main entrance

Assembling the the decorative parts of the entrance door of the museum main building.
going up...

Building up of the walls, the inner and outer wall.
End of May 2009

View of the ground floor in progress...
The team celebrating the assembling of wooden structure.

View of the ground floor of museum with the Leh palace on the background.

Carpenters assembling the pillars, brackets and beams.
View of the wooden structure.

Carpenter fixing the wooden lantern. The lantern connects all floors, and symbolises the different cultures living together in Ladakh.
Making of the roof with twigs called Taloo.

Ground floor plan, Central Asian Museum, design A. Alexander
East elevation Central Asian Museum Leh (design A. Alexander and N. Weber)

Site plan Central Asian Museum Leh (THF).

Events at the Central Asian Museum Leh
To celebrate the pre-opening of the Central Asian Museum Leh (CAML) and the Trans-Himalayan Research Library (THRL), THF co-hosted and co-organized two workshops and one art exhibition with local organizations.

Opening of the Trans-Himalayan Research Library
The Trans-Himalayan Research Library, a key component of Central Asian Museum Leh, was formally inaugurated by Saleem Beg (INTAC J&K) on 9 June, the same day it opened to the public. Ladakhi scholar Abdul Ghani Sheik donated his personal collection of books to form the core of the library, which currently specializes in academic literature about the Himalayas and Central Asia. The Sikkim Institute of Tibetology also donated 80kg of books. THF is grateful for any future book donations

Conservation of Cultural Heritage and Its Future in Ladakh Workshop
A workshop on the ‘Conservation of Cultural Heritage & Its Future in Ladakh’ was held in the Trans-Himalaya Research Library on 9 June. This workshop was a collaboration between Architects Sans Frontiers and THF. Under the guidance of LAHDC, the workshop aimed at drafting a set of comprehensive guidelines for heritage conservation in the Ladakhi region, and to incorporate the output into the vision document – Year 2020. We hope the outcome will bring more awareness about, and act as a restraint on, ill-conceived measures in cultural heritage conservation.

Pre-opening of the Central Asian Museum Leh
On 23 and 24 August, the Central Asian Museum Leh opened to the public for a special preview. An exhibition with artefacts, photographs and artwork told the story of the caravan routes which linked Ladakh with the wider region. On 23 there was also a workshop on conservation. The events were attended by the Ministry for Culture and Tourism, Jammu & Kashmir, local community and administrative heads, as well as hundreds of visitors.

Art work of HansJorg Quaderer and Helena Becker Exhibition
In August, the Central Asian Museum Leh presented the artwork of two Liechtenstein artists, Hansjorg Quaderer and Helena Becker. The aim of the event was to initiate programs that would grow appreciation for the completion of the museum. Quaderer showcased a series of semi-abstract paintings on cloth and paper, using the materials he found at the worksites: charcoal from the fire, ochre used to paint monastery walls, chalk for white-washing, indigo etc. Helena Becker presented a leporello of 12 paper cuts, inspired by literature about Central Asian caravans by Sven Hedin and other authors.

Archeological Research & Architectural Conservation in Ladakh
THF/LOTI hosted a workshop on ‘Archeological Research and Architectural Conservation in Ladakh’ at the Trans-Himalaya Research Library on 23 August. Participants of the workshop agreed to jointly request that the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council create a local heritage authority, and make legislation for "Ladakh Protected Monument", in order to protect important local cultural sites which have not gained the National Monument Status of Archaeological Survey of India. Participants also agreed to collaborate to prevent construction of a two-lane thoroughfare through the historic old town. The events were organized and carried out by THF/LOTI, in cooperation with the Central Asian Museum Leh, Anjuman Society Leh, CNRS Paris, INTACH J&K, the International Association for Ladakh Studies and a group of French and Swiss researchers.

Trans-Himalayan Research Library
Ladakhi scholar Abdhul Ghani Sheik offered to donate his private book collection if a library could be built as part of the museum complex. With funding by the Embassy of Finland and the J&K Ministry of Tourism, his dream could be realized, and the library building was completed in 2010.

Iron Bridge
The exit bridge of the museum is inspired by aspects of Tibetan architectural history. It shepherds visitors completing their tour of the museum down into the peaceful garden.

Ladakh gate (South gate)
The Ladakh gate is the main gate on the south side of the museum complex, facing the Main Bazaar. This gate is designed in Ladakhi / Tibetan style, and features a large double-swing door set between stone walls and a black-painted frieze. On top of this frieze is the museum signboard, written in three languages. This gate gives an inviting impression to visitors and integrates well with the museum tower building located behind.

Kashmir gate (North gate)
The Kashmir gate opens to the Muslim residential area and Shia mosque on the north side of the museum complex. It is accordingly designed in Islamic style, with finely carved and decorated timbers standing on a stone platform.

Ladakhi Kitchen Museum
A traditional Ladakhi kitchen was built for the museum complex, where visitors can experience the most active space of a Ladakhi family house. The kitchen space was arranged traditionally with a clay stove, and to partly serve as a tea house where visitors can enjoy fresh teas and snacks. A roof top terrace and open wooden deck allows visitors to relax in the open air.
The building design is based on an idea proposed by Ladakhi scholar Abdul Ghani Sheikh, which was further designed and refined by THF’s Yutaka Hirako. The design is based on a traditional Ladakhi house and uses natural materials locally found in Ladakh. The proposal included a single-storey building, which will both enhance and blend into the peaceful and genuine atmosphere of the complex.
In 2012, we began to prepare the construction materials and built the foundations. In 2013, we continued to build the main structure of the building. On the foundation wall we built a thick adobe wall with wooden ring-beam to improve the earthquake-resistance of the building. After that the wooden structure was assembled. A roofed gallery ‘Yaps’ was built on the roof and a stone stair was built to access the rooftop terrace. All windows were double-glazed to improve the insulation performance. Also a wooden deck was made in front of the kitchen to be used as the platform for activities. The interior was made according to the typical Ladakhi kitchen space: kitchen shelf, table around the pillar, a wooden partition and low-set bench, wooden flooring and especially a clay-stove was built in the center of the room. Shelves and a wooden counter were also built. After that the Ladakhi Kitchen Museum was completed and ready to receive visitors.

Tsas Soma garden landscaping
Tsas Soma, the new garden, was the land used to accommodate the trade caravans. It has been used with this function since the 17th Century when Ladakh’s king Jamyang Namgyel gave this land to the local community. Today the Central Asian Museum Leh was established in this garden complex. THF designed the whole Tsas Soma garden landscaping and created public space for visitors. The garden landscaping was made in three areas; mini garden A and mini garden B around the museum main building and the caravan garden at the center of the Tsas Soma garden complex.

Mini garden A
We designed a small garden for visitors. Fixed benches and table were placed at a corner of the museum building, and the floor was paved with Yamangs slate stone. Visitors can take a rest under the shadow of willow trees while hearing the sound of the stream. Views are opened to the museum bridge and the green space of Tsas Soma caravan garden.

Mini garden B
The Tibet-Ladakhi designed main gate will welcome the visitors to the Central Asian Museum Leh from the Leh’s Main Bazaar. Visitors will see the museum tower on their front and they will follow the slate paved footpath towards the museum entrance. We designed a long bench along the footpath with screen of canvas fabric for the visitors to take a rest.

Caravan garden
Caravan garden, the green garden with dozens of willow trees and a stream, is the center of the museum complex. This space is designed for the visitors to enjoy the green space. Simply, we paved the footpaths between buildings and Kashmir gate and kept an open space that can be used as ‘Caravan Garden Restaurant’.
Two wooden bridges were constructed over the stream and connected to the mini gardens. On the Eastern side a platform was paved with slate stone. A lighting system was installed around the caravan garden.

Solar panels and battery installation
THF proposed to install a sustainable clean energy system for the electricity supply of the museum. Ladakh has adequate solar resources and the local government promotes the latest solar power system at subsidised price. This kind of system provides enough electricity to supply the entire museum complex. The solar panels and battery were successfully installed in 2013.

Museum extension building – the old bakery building
The old bakery building located at Eastern side of the museum complex is where Kashmiri bakers make fresh bread for the local community, also popular among visitors today. THF’s architect Yutaka Hirako proposed the renovation plan to rearrange the building to facilitate multi-functional uses. In our proposals the ground floor facing the street will continue to serve as commercial space and retain the original bakeries. At the rear we proposed to create a kitchen space for the caravan garden restaurant of the museum complex. The 1st floor will have a multipurpose room, offices and storage rooms for the museum administration. The renovation plan was made in such a way as to adapt some new functions to the historic building, implementing the principles of ‘adaptive reuse’.
Renovation work started with dismantling of the 1st floor, most parts of the wall were removed and windows, doors and rafters were retained for recycling. Masons repaired the ground floor stone wall and partly removed some walls to create a larger space for the restaurant’s kitchen. Meanwhile, carpenters prepared structural parts for the kitchen and also repaired the old window and the door frames. The ceiling was constructed with rafters and taloo (willow twigs), the later being covered with layers of soil. The work continued on the 1st floor. Substantial changes were made to the Southern part of the building. We created a new glass room which forms a link between the open terrace and the multipurpose room. The multipurpose room was designed as a potential space for various activities: conferences, lectures, meetings, exhibitions, museum events etc. This room is the most elaborately decorated with rich architectural details on pillars/brackets, doors and ceiling. Also a large window opens to the bakery street and an opening has been left for a skylight. The South side of the building has been made into three office rooms, a storage room and a reception lobby placed around the central corridor. Three access stairs were built from the street side and the museum garden side, which allowed good flow to the 1st floor rooms. In 2014, we completed the major parts of the structural work. In 2015, we continued to work on the fixtures and interior finishing. Carpenters prepared two large sky-lights, which bring the natural light and circulate the fresh air. Also railings, partitions and all the window shutters and door boards were made and fixed into position. Electricians installed the electric wires and later the masons followed with plastering work. We paved the multipurpose room with wood and the other rooms and corridor floor were paved with slate stone. We sealed the roof with different layers of soil and we covered the parapet with Yamangs slate and donkey-dung mixed soil, which prevent the water infiltration. The work was completed by applying linseed oil to the wooden parts, whitewashing the exterior wall and fixing glazing in the windows.
At the same time we built the public toilet attached to the extension building. This building consists of three flush toilets and two local compost toilets and is accessible from the extension building and also from the garden side. The flush toilets have an innovative feature which sieves the liquid and the solid human waste and treats them separately, so the liquid will drain through a filter system before discharging into the stream and the solid waste will be mixed with soil and recycled as organic fertilizer. This was one of the first trials of the environmentally friendly public toilet in Ladakh.

Workshop:How to run a museum
In August 2015, THF/LOTI organised a workshop at the Central Asia Museum Leh ‘How to run a museum’ with the support of the University of Hong Kong Museum Society. The aim of this workshop was to give a general guidance on the tasks necessary to run a museum as well as to train local people in how to prepare and curate an exhibition and host school visits to the museum. Stella Bickelmann, from the Museum of London, gave the workshop with the participation of Ladakhi historian Abdul Ghani Sheikh and with input of Pimpim de Azevedo and Yutaka Hirako. The workshop was attended by nine trainees from different backgrounds with a keen interest in learning how to run a museum.

Project supported by The University of Hong Kong Museum Society.

Completion ceremony of the Central Asian Museum Leh
On 7th October 2015 we held the completion ceremony of the Central Asian Museum Leh. In the ceremony, we expressed heartfelt thanks to all the people involved in the project, from the ones who conceived the idea, provided the land, designed the museum, constructed the buildings, managed the progress and sponsored the project.
The representatives of the different communities, scholars and concerned parties attended the ceremony. Mr. Saleem Beg chairman of National Monument Authority was the chief guest. During the ceremony, two minutes of silence were kept in memory of late André Alexander who conceived, designed and supervised the construction of the main museum building. Ladakh’s multi-ethnic community was very happy to have this museum and many community representatives and scholars expressed the importance of the museum where their culture and history can be presented, and where knowledge is imparted and education is delivered.
The ceremony was broadcast on the local TV station Doordarshan and the radio AIR, and also the articles were published in the newspaper Reach Ladakh. http://www.reachladakh.com/central-asian-museum-to-display-baltistan-ladakh-kashmir-tibet-artifacts/3042.html

Project supported by Jammu & Kashmir Ministry of Tourism, Maximilian Y. K. Ma, Francesca von Habsburg, China Exploration & Research Society (CERS), Finland Embassy New Delhi and Virginia & Wellington Yee.

Copyright, Tibet Heritage Fund